Thomas of Ireland

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Thomas of Ireland (fl. 1295 – before 1338), known as Thomas Hibernicus, not to be confused with the Franciscan friar Thomas de Hibernia (died c. 1270),[1] was an Irish writer. His claim to fame is not as an original author, but as an anthologist and indexer.


Thomas was a Fellow of the College of Sorbonne and a Master of Arts by 1295, and referred to as a former fellow in the first manuscripts of his Manipulus in 1306. He is believed to have died before 1338.


Manipulus florum[edit]

Thomas was the author of three short works on theology and biblical exegesis, and the compiler of the Manipulus florum ('A Handful of Flowers'). The latter, a Latin florilegium, has been described as a "collection of some 6,000 extracts from patristic and a few classical authors".[2] Thomas compiled this collection from books in the library of the Sorbonne, "and at his death he bequeathed his books and sixteen pounds Parisian to the college".[3]

The Manipulus florum survives in one hundred and ninety manuscripts, and was first printed in 1483. It was printed twenty-six times in the 16th century, eleven times in the 17th. As late as the 19th century editions were published in Vienna and Turin.

Although Thomas was apparently a member of the secular clergy, his anthology was highly successful because it was "well suited to the needs of the new mendicant preaching orders ... [to] ... locate quotations ... relevant to any subject they might wish to touch on in their sermons."[4] Indeed, Boyer has demonstrated that very soon after the Manipulus was completed a French Dominican used it to compose a series of surviving sermons.[5] However, Nighman has argued that, although it was surely used by preachers, Thomas did not actually intend his anthology as a reference tool for sermon composition, as argued by the Rouses, but rather as a learning aid for university students, especially those intending on a clerical career involving pastoral care.[6]

Thomas was also among the earliest pioneers of medieval information technology that included alphabetical subject indices and cross-references. "In his selection, and in the various indexing techniques he invented or improved on, he revealed true originality and inventiveness."[4] Those finding tools are preserved, and electronically enhanced, in Nighman's online critical edition of the Manipulus florum.

Other works[edit]

Thomas was also the author of three other works:

  1. De tribus punctis religionis Christiane ('On the three main points of the Christian religion'), on the duties of secular clergy;[1]
  2. De tribus hierarchiis ('On the three hierarchies'), which develops ideas about hierarchy expressed at the end of De tribus punctis;[1] and
  3. De tribus sensibus sacre scripture ('On the three senses of holy scripture'), on the four senses of Scripture.[1] The last two works survive in three and eight manuscripts respectively.[7]

References and further reading[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Clarke (2004), "Hibernicus, Thomas (c. 1270 – c.1340)", ODNB.
  2. ^ Richard Rouse and Mary Rouse, Preachers, florilegia and sermons: Studies on the Manipulus Florum of Thomas of Ireland, Toronto, 1979.
  3. ^ A New History of Ireland, volume one, p. 958.
  4. ^ a b Rouses, Preachers
  5. ^ Christine Boyer, "Un témoin précoce de la réception du Manipulus florum au début du XIVème siècle: le recueil de sermons du dominicain Guillaume de Sauqueville," Bibliothèque de l'École de Chartes, 163.1 (2006), pp. 43-70.
  6. ^ Chris L. Nighman, "Commonplaces on preaching among commonplaces for preaching? The topic Predicatio in Thomas of Ireland's Manipulus florum", Medieval Sermon Studies 49 (2005), 37-57.
  7. ^ A recent study on these three minor works is Declan Lawell, "Thomas of Ireland, the Pseudo-Dionysius and the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy: A Study of the Three Opuscula", chp. 5, p. 74-87, in J. McEvoy & M. Dunne (eds), The Irish Contribution to European Scholastic Thought (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2009). See also James McEvoy, "Flowers from Ancient Gardens: The Lemma 'Amicitia' in the Manipulus florum of Thomas of Ireland", chp. 4, p. 60-73 in the same volume.

External links[edit]